Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Miles Teller (Andrew Neiman), JK Simmons (Terrence Fletcher), Paul Rieser (Jim Neiman), Melissa Benoist (Nicole)
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Whiplash is one of my favorite films of all time. While the premise revolves around a student drummer, it really focuses on the physiological effects of negative reinforcement. This movie is a must watch for numerous reasons as it focuses on communication, failure, and motivation.
Miles Teller plays Andrew Niemen who is a drummer at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory. His obsession with stardom derails him into becoming a shell of himself. Neiman distances himself from his immediate family because they do not recognize his independent goal. Instead, the family favors lesser accomplishments by his brothers, Division 3 Football compared to core drummer at elite program, and this sets him on a lonesome path with no real support group. His family is not trying to hurt him, but they do not understand his individual path and praise the things they know. While on his own he tries to create relationships. He has no real friends in the music program and it is made very clear that he is all by himself.
Andrew begins a relationship with Nicole who works at a movie theater. Writer and Director Damien Chazelle does a brilliant job setting up the relationship between these two. Nicole works at a very public place, so Neiman has numerous opportunities to talk to her and could easily save face when he backs out of asking her out. It shows Andrew’s insecurity and poor social skills as he would go to theater by himself and back out of having small talk with her, even though it was his only reason for going to the theater. After Andrew finally asks her out, their relationship is very one dimensional as Nicole tries to break down the walls he built up over the years. Neiman tries to open up but never does in their brief relationship.All he does is discuss his goals. He then abruptly ends their relationship when he realizes that he cannot focus on his career and give Nicole the attention she deserves. He discusses his reasoning for the breakup as a business transaction, showing that he has distanced himself from society and has no understanding how to handle personal situations. She also represents how life moves on when Andrew goes into isolation. She begins new a new relationship and won’t let Andrew hold her back.
Jim Neiman, Andrew’s father, is another key character in this film. He tries to repair his damaged relationship with his son. While does not get much character development, it is clear what he represents to his son. Mediocrity, which because of Andrew’s desire to be great, means failure. Jim Neiman’s wife left him and is not widely successful in any aspect of his life. Jim Neiman constantly tries to jump into his son’s life, especially at Andrew’s lowest points, but the distance between them is clear and depressing to watch. Jim clearly loves his son, but that does not mean that he knows or understands him.
The most key relationship in the film is between Andrew Neiman and his music teacher Terrence Fletcher. JK Simmons who plays Fletcher simply steals the show as an intimidating figure. Fletcher is abusive toward his students as he mocks and insults them. Fletcher is a bully and strongly believes in negative reinforcement. He makes this clear as he says “there are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job.”. Fletcher’s motives are clear that he will do anything possible to find the next Louis Armstrong or Charlie Parker. Fletcher is convinced that he can only get one of his students to emerge by pushing them beyond their breaking point.
I loved the ending of this movie because it is so misleading. Without spoiling too much, Fletcher eventually gets Andrew to break. What is truly amazing is how Andrew responds. Andrew reunites with his teacher and finally gets Fletcher’s approval as the film comes to a close. Happy ending, right? No. This is where the film is so interesting and sets itself apart. Fletcher gets his star by pushing him as hard as humanely possible. This proves, in Fletcher’s mind, that he was right and justifies the abusive relationships he had with his students for decades. It is justification for him pushing one of his former students to suicide because he got his Charlie Parker. What about Andrew, he is happy now that he reached his goal,right? He is on the path to stardom and he can follow his dream, right? No. Fletcher broke Andrew and changed his dream. Instead of wanting to become a great drummer, his obsession became getting the approval of his teacher. That is what drove him insane and destroyed his personal relationships. That is why he spent countless hours practicing by alone and resorted to destroying his drum set in disgust. Andrew got his teacher’s approval. Now what? All he has is the realization is that the only reason he achieved his previous goals was because of his tormentor. This movie should make you think about why you are pushing for something, is it for yourself or someone else.
I give Whiplash,
4 out of 4